By Malinda Jorgensen
Often times in your news writing, you have to be careful of what words you write. For example, you seldom have to be careful of what terms you use to describe someone with a disability. There are people with disabilities out there that would take offense to a term that seems derogative to them. You may not mean to say the term but sometimes they take offense to the term. Here are some advice for using the right terms in your news writing:
- Hearing impaired: Some deaf people (especially the deaf community) do not like the term “hearing impaired.” They feel like the term puts them in a negative light or less intelligent. They actually prefer “deaf.”
- Mental retardation: This one is a BIG NO-NO. I guess nowadays this term is common sense not to use, but I still hear people call people “retards” in general. This term is definitely NOT a word to describe people or even people with disabilities, more specifically mental disabilities. I would take offense to that and I am sure anyone else would too.
- Confined to a wheelchair/wheelchair bound: people in wheelchairs are not bound to their wheelchairs. They can get out of the wheelchair with some assistance. The right term is “person who uses a wheelchair.”
There are many other derogative terms, but those are a few terms to avoid in your news writing. I know the words listed above are pretty common sense, but not everyone has common sense that they think they do.
So when it comes to writing your article that talks about a person with disability, you may have to consult a source about what terms are okay to use. You can even ask them what they call themselves. For example, you can ask a deaf person if “hearing impaired” or “deaf” works for them. I’m actually fine with “hearing impaired” but “deaf” -not so much. I am not “deaf” technically, because I have cochlear implants. It just varies from person to person or even community to community, which I’m sure works for any term.
Keep in mind that if you use the right term for a disability in your news writing, people will still go after you about using the “wrong” term. Just ignore them as long as you used the right terms according to sources that you have. Sometimes when you accidentally use the wrong term, just apologize-genuinely.
Have you seen wrong/derogative terms in the media or even in news writing? If so, provide example?
Why do you think people use them sometimes in media? Just out of arrogance? Or lack of education?